Damian Lewis on being away from his kids for 5 months a year: ‘I wrestle with this’

Damian Lewis (ginger heartthrob, English star of Homeland) has a fascinating interview in the new issue of Vogue UK. Damian is discussing how difficult it is to be away from his family (who live in England) for five months a year while he’s in North Carolina working on Homeland. In the past, Damian has emphasized how he and his wife Helen make it work, and how Helen and his kids (Gulliver and Manon, 5 and 6 respectively) come to visit him while he’s filming, but in this interview, Damian is talking about how really hard it is on him, and he tells a story about one of his kids that kind of broke my heart.

For many women the demands of juggling work and motherhood is a continual source of heartache. But Homeland star Damian Lewis has confessed that, for busy fathers, the guilt over being absent is just as strong. The 41-year-old is married to acclaimed actress Helen McCrory and the couple have two children, Manon, six, and five-year-old Gulliver.

The couple have a live-in nanny but Lewis admitted it was not a ‘substitute’ and children wanted their parents around.

The star’s career is booming because of the success of the political thriller, in which he stars as a US marine who has been hired by Islamic terrorists to attack his home country. But the series demands that he spends five months of the year filming in Charlotte, North Carolina and Mr Lewis admits he feels he is missing out on the children’s lives. He revealed his children had been honest about their unhappiness at his prolonged absence.

Mr Lewis told Vogue magazine: ‘I was talking to Gully about something completely different and suddenly, without even looking at me, he said, “D’you know Dad? When you’re away sometimes I look out of my bedroom window at night and I call your name, and I cry”. I wrestle with this. I wrestle with it. Children like you being around. They just really like you being around. I don’t think there is any substitute for doing it well and just doing it right. And doing it right is just being there. Nobody is perfect but being there is a good start.’

Miss McCrory, who has starred in Harry Potter, The Queen and Skyfall, said while she had her children relatively late the benefit had been that she established her career and was now in a position to choose which projects she undertook. She said the couple tried to ensure that only one of them was away working at a time and she organised her career around her children’s needs.

The 44-year-old explained: ‘It has got to be a damn good offer to coax me away from them, which is probably why the projects I have worked on since they were born have been such interesting ones.’

When they are not working, the pair live in London, a city to which Lewis feels “committed”.

“As much as we may look like power-hungry, mad people, we are very committed, first and foremost, to living our life,” said Lewis. “LA is interesting but it’s not one of the great places. It’s an inferior city to London.”

Lewis described his life in London, where he grew up, as close to his “fantasy” of “the happy, slightly chaotic, noise family” that has “sunday roats, and friends coming round and walks with the dog”.

[From The Mail & The Telegraph]

Damian’s story about his child made me wonder what our reaction would be if a mother had shared this story. I think we would be much, much harsher. I think we would be judging her for working in another city for five months a year while her husband stayed at home with the kids. I know this because it seemed like too many of you freaked out when Claire Danes admitted that she really had no interest in being a stay-at-home mom in a magazine interview – Claire said: “I think I would make a lousy stay-at-home mom. It just wouldn’t suit me. I feel so fortunate, in that I’ve had this arrow-straight focus…that I wanted to act.” If saying that makes Claire a lousy person (which I don’t agree with – I think it was brave of her to talk about how much she loves to work, regardless of motherhood), then is Damian a lousy parent too because he prioritizes work ahead of his children’s wishes?

Photos courtesy of WENN, Vogue UK.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

24 Responses to “Damian Lewis on being away from his kids for 5 months a year: ‘I wrestle with this’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. RN says:

    The double standard is alive and well in the US for mothers still. I’ve gotten sh*t when I’ve worked (“how can you leave your little ones for 13 hours a day?”) and when I’ve stayed home (“what do you DOOOO all day long?”). In the end, you shrug it all off and do what’s best for your family, while acknowledging (like Mr. Lewis) that there is no perfect scenario in life.

  2. Birdix says:

    I don’t agree with shaming Danes at all, but I do think that for most 5 and 6 year olds it would be more difficult to have their mom gone for 5 months than their dad. No disrespect to dads…

  3. gee says:

    A lot of jobs require time away from the family.. Every family needs to find a balance that works for them. We can’t all be held to the same standard of hours per together-time. He might be with his kids full time for 7 months a year, it’s not a bad deal imo.

    • EmmaStoneWannabe says:

      That’s what I was thinking. As hard as it would be to be gone 5 months, if he (or anyone) could have the remaining 7 months off and be a full-time dad, I really think a lot of people would see that as a good deal. Many parents only see their kids a couple of hours/day year-round..so, I guess it’s all in how you view it. Anyway, Im sure they could come visit him on set on occasion – Not like he’s an actual Marine, sent overseas.

  4. lucy2 says:

    That must be tough for the family, but I do think it’s good they prioritize the kids being in school as well.
    Also, doesn’t the show film mostly in the summer? If their kids have a break from school, I’d imagine they could spend quite a few weeks in the US with him while he works.

  5. Justyna says:

    I wonder why his family isn’t with him in North Carolina when he’s working. Claire is away from her husband because he’s filming a show in the different city, but Helen said that she’s not filming when he is, so it’s not because of her work commitments and schools are everywhere. Other actors with the same situation (for example Andrew Lincoln – another Englishman with 2 children, filming The Walking Dead in Georgia) usually take their families with them to avoid this kind of situation.

    As for the double standards – the same situation is with the touring musicians (male rock starts get a free pass, female musican is supposed to end her career after giving birth) or famous travelers. We have this famous female traveler where I live and she has a baby with a guy who works at home so when she is climbing Mount Everest or swimming in the Amazon River (which is usually few weeks at a time), he is taking care of the baby and people are calling her names and accusing her of the worst things because a mother is supposed to be with her baby all the time. Her male colleagues can do whatever they want – one is usually away for 9 months out of every year and no one says anything about him.

    • Thiajoka says:

      My guess would be to allow the kids the security of still having their friends, other family members, activities, and school as a regular part of their lives.

    • epiphany says:

      Yes, WHY aren’t his wife and kids in North Carolina with him? It’s a gorgeous place to raise kids, they could easily hire a tutor, or home school, and, depending on the school they attend in London, they could even continue at that same school via internet. I recall reading an interview Lewis gave during his ‘Band of Brothers’ mini series, and he spoke of his childhood. He was obviously very happy growing up, and had an almost idyllic childhood. He was asked if he believed in life long commitments; he said “absolutely.” He was asked if he believed in life long monogamy; he said “absolutely not.” Guess Helen never read that article. There was also BI a few months ago of a male lead on a cable show who spent long periods away from his wife, and was seeing one of his co-stars, just for sex. Lewis was the #1 guess.

  6. mln76 says:

    I think there has to be another solution if its that painful for the kids. Like have them come out to the US for those months…much better to miss friends then parent I am glad I missed the Danes thread the double standards and sexism makes me sad.

  7. L says:

    On a random note-I still wonder what it would have been like if Helen McCrory had been able to play Bellatrix Lestrange (she was originally cast and then got pregnant)

    I remember Hugh Laurie having a similar concern about his family. Even with visits for months, I still think its quite difficult.

    • Emily says:

      Really? I hadn’t heard of that! I think it turned out for the best though. And not just because Helena Bonham-Carter was brilliant as Bellatrix, but I can’t think of anyone who could have played Narcissa so well. But then I just love Helen McCrory in everything I’ve ever seen her in…

  8. Violet says:

    I think he’s being incredibly selfish and irresponsible.

    He’s at a stage in his career where he could easily support his family, plus find interesting acting opportunities, without leaving his home country. Instead, he’s CHOOSING to spend almost half his time on the other side of the globe from his young children. To me, that’s outright abandonmnent.

    Also, call me cynical, but I bet his bed isn’t empty for all those months he’s away from his wife.

    (Incidentally, I can’t believe that people even compare Claire Danes’ situation to this. Let’s face it, Clair and Damian are no doubt financially set for life, and probably no longer need to work for money. The difference is that Damian makes his career his first priority, while Claire comes home to her husband and child every night.)

  9. Leek says:

    I don’t have a problem with working parents, as I am one myself. Different routines work for different families and kids know what they know. I do have a problem w/parents I know who over work to the point everyone can see its hurting their children and then during their time off borrow other people’s kids to keep theirs busy.

    This is just experience I have with a friend. She calls me and asks if my daughter can come over b/c hers is grouchy b/c she’s been working too much. So where is the balance..

  10. Marty says:

    Total side note: I really hate when celebrity couples pose on the red carpet and the woman has her hand on the guy’s chest. It irks me for some reason.

  11. ssa says:

    Why doesn’t the family just move to North Carolina with him? I’m sure he makes enough money to finance the move. Plus I’m sure his employers can get his family visas pretty easily. It annoys me when people complain about their circumstance as if there is absolutely nothing they can do about them.

  12. Genevieve says:

    I have absolutly no problem with someone who is a working parent. But this seems overboard. You don’t see your wife & kids for 1/2 a year….that’s more then if he were in the military. I hope he’s happy that he’s a dad that can buy them anything they want as opposed to a dad who is there for them. And you know that a divorce will happen. I’m sorry, but no job is worth leaving your family for. Why did they even bother having kids in the first place?

  13. videli says:

    His children come and stay with him during the school vacation, so it’s half or less than 5 months of separation. McCrory is a stage actress with a solid career, so it’s not like she’s going to pack and follow her husband across the Atlantic. As to those who prophesize about divorce and adultery, bitches, better watch your back yard.

  14. Ms Kay says:

    To be honest as much as I understand what he means, it’s not as if his problem has no solution when of course it does. The only reason he is away from home for 5 months is because he wants to be… Otherwise he has money to own a second house in Charlotte and the kids wouldn’t be the first to split their school year. It’s not like he’s in Afghanistan as a soldier who hasn’t much of a choice nor much resources…

    At the end of the day any success comes with a price eh…

  15. yoyo says:

    Pfff what a load of rubbish.

    I admit to being a bit of a Homeland nut for a minute so I know way more about this than any normal human being should.

    1st of all the “5 months” is a load of non sense. 2 of those are summer months where he has said before the kids come over for the holidays to N. Carolina. The rest of the time, as he is in an ensemble cast and on the east coast, he often jets back and forth over the weekend or such as he doesn’t need to be on set all the time.

    2nd they have a live-in Nanny. Nothing wrong with that, but listen if you have a house in London and a live in Nanny and starring on one of the biggest shows on TV (and it’s not his first big show) you have enough money to do whatever the hell you WANT…and here’s the rub.

    My take on this is that it is his wife who doesn’t want to move to the US. They tried it when he had another big show and she hated it. She’s an actress that is well known and respected in the UK and a pretty big name there. But she is not what you would call a classical beauty and she’s nobody in the US and not a stay at home type. He’s been quite gracious on US stalk shows about the opportunities working in the US have provided for him, she dumps on the LA/”TheIndustry” every chance she gets.

    So this is their choice, they have enogh money to do whatever, the 2 of them were mega posh to begin with and their careers have just added to that, nothing is imposed and making it look “so hard” is just ridiculous.

    Finally a couple of things:
    -So for 5 months, well actually 3 he’s not there every day, so what. Listen there are 7 other months in the year where he can be there EVERY DAY…if he wants to and Skype, and as mentioned before he does fly over etc… Lots of people who work in oil or gas fields (and other jobs) are away from they families for several weeks at a time and on holiday after that for several weeks. Same thing there. Except they don’t have the millions to go with that…
    -A lot of men (and also women) hardly see their kids if at all during the work week, especially when they are younger and need lots of sleep.

    SO bottomline, ths is rubbish, this is their choice, and yeah when I see how Claire Danes got ripped to shreds for just saying that she doesn’t fancy being a stay at home Mom, I’m blown away at what Damian Lewis can “get away” with saying just because he’s a guy. Thank God this is the 21st century, I don’t want to know what it was like 20 years ago!

    PS For the record , if my kid told me something like that I would have to se-ri-ously re-evaluate my priorities or work on my kids confidence because that really doesn’t sound good. I’ve had situations where little nephews were forced to leave their own countries due to natural disasters and stay away from their parents for months while they rebuilt. They never said stuff like that BUT they talked to their folks all the time, we had a calendar where they would count down the days until they’d be re-united and we would talk about their parents all the time basically making the parent present even though they were far away. Sure they missed them but not to the point of just crying forlornly staring out a window…Geez.

  16. Kosmos says:

    This is what actors have to go through if they need to make films on location, so what is so surprising about it? Hopefully, the family can weather it through. The actors can choose not to take the role, but then their careers suffer, but they do have choices. I guess you have to be ready for this when you go into acting, but don’t complain when you’re making all that $$.

  17. EmmaStoneWannabe says:

    His little boy is probably crying like that because he gets spoiled to seeing him for 7ish months everyday, when he’s not filming. Then when daddy goes back to work, it disrupts the routine of seeing him so often. In a way, I say poor kid, but again, a lot of kids grow up with their parents gone half/most of the time. Doesn’t make it right, but just a fact of life. At least they can afford a nanny to help out as well as trips back and forth to see each other while he is away filming.